Railroad Court Drama Looms
One of China’s highest-ranking officials to face corruption charges, ousted Railway Minister Liu Zhijun is soon to face trial. From James T. Areddy at The Wall Street Journal:
State media in recent days have begun running new reports that flesh out the alleged deeds of 59-year-old Liu Zhijun, one of the most senior members of China’s Communist Party to face corruption allegations. That has fueled speculation from analysts that Mr. Liu’s court date is approaching.
In May, Mr. Liu was removed from the Party for what was described as “severe violations of discipline,” watchwords that typically indicate a fallen party official is likely to face prosecution by China’s civilian courts. Now, the state-run Xinhua news agency is detailing the alleged bribe-taking.
[…] Though perhaps less sensational, a trial of Mr. Liu is also significant for China. Accusations that the head of the Ministry of Railways took bribes are no less than an indictment of the management of one of China’s biggest public works projects, including what Xinhua said was 2 trillion yuan of railroad construction during Mr. Liu’s tenure.
An editorial in the Economic Observer on Monday described the enormous extent of the ministry’s “private kingdom”, arguing that this has helped foster corruption and nepotism. As an example, it noted the rapid rise of Liu’s younger brother to become director-general of the Wuhan Bureau of Railways.
Nepotism certainly isn’t rare in Chinese society. Complex “family trees” within political agencies at the town and county level in rural China are commonplace. However, these local fiefdoms don’t come close to the scale of the national railway system, which covers the entire country. The complexity of the railway’s nepotism comes from its ability to function in a self-contained environment where it’s almost separated itself completely from China’s social system and has become a “sub-system” or “sub-society.”
[…] The Ministry of Railways has exerted its influence on public security agencies, procuratorates, and courts. Its reach can also be felt in ideological outlets (television, newspapers, periodicals, book publication, cultural and art troupes), business (machinery, real estate, construction, tourism, logistics, broad-band networks, advertising, catering services, foreign trade), and public services (hospitals and schools).
[…] Nepotism and cronyism breed in the vastness and omnipotence of an independent “sub-society.” Overly-intertwined relationships and other maladies become unavoidable if the larger system stays unchanged. If you want to change the status quo, the first step is to attack the problem at its root.